In the book, Braiding Sweetgrass, Potawatomi author and botanist Robin Wall Kimmerer reflects on the relationship between Indigenous knowledge and science. In a recent interview with the Boston Globe, she told the reporter: “At a time of climate change…I can’t help but cling to the notion that it’s not the land that’s broken, it is our relationship to land that’s broken.” She understands the “deep ecological grief” many feel. ‘Grief is a measure of how much we love. And so I honor that grief,’ Kimmerer added. “But then you roll up your sleeves. Out of the love that you have for the world — that’s expressed in that grief — then you get to work, the work of restoration.” This idea could be a core value of Radical Hope. There’s no need to reject the grief — instead, we can use despair to motivate us in the work of restoration.
Dan Zak has a new article in the Washington Post which is, as much as anything, brief history of the messaging surrounding climate change. It nicely illustrates the difficulty we face when discussing a topic like climate crisis or climate breakdown in the classroom or in public. In the article, Zak provides numerous examples of how different words have been appropriated and re-appropriated, how meaning has been amplified or stripped from different concepts depending on who, when, and how a given term is invoked. In one hopeful example, he states, for instance, that “women are rewording climate conversations to honor the collective, connective nature of the problem.” During this important moment more scrutiny to words will serve us well. Check out Zak’s piece.
If the RHS has been a helpful resource, you may want to attend the following conference — run at the National Humanities Center.
Perhaps it is more important to be in community, vulnerable and real and whole, than to be right, or to be winning — adrienne maree brown
These times of upheaval call on us to explore new ways of coming into touch and to recognise that there are other possibilities. Many attempts to ‘save the world’ only end up reinstating the status quo. The world is bigger and more curious than solutions.
I’d like to ad the above article “Beyond Hope” by Derrick Jensen to the section of the course on ‘Looking at the ordinary – a tender practice of forging relationships’. In it
Jensen speaks of the impulse to “save” the world coming from a place of love and allowing oneself to be touched. By drawing on the idea of ‘love’, it is hoped that we can learn to see in such a way that things come alive again.
We live in incoherent times, each day the unraveling of the biosphere becomes more and more apparent with plastic landscapes, catastrophic droughts, rising carbon emissions, rising sea levels, loss of biodiversity, and the proliferation of the dreadful and horrific. How to respond to the crisis of nature that defines our time is an urgent question. The creation of a more sustainable world depends on a fundamental shift of our dominant relationship with nature. Assumptions that culture and nature occupy different dimensions are beginning to shatter and being disrupted. This moment invites us to create the means for posing problems differently.
The ‘Looking at the Ordinary’ section of the course attempts to do this by reflecting on the practices and sensibilities of a transformative urban nature project in Cape Town. The Cape Flats Nature (CFN) project aimed to “build good practice in sustainable management of City nature conservation sites in a way that benefits surrounding communites, particularly those where incomes are low and living condition poor” (Soal and van Blerk, 2005). The project risked slowing down to nurture profound levels of observation and conversation in order to protect capabilities for flourishing. The project created spaces for competing ideas, discussion and debate and helped create conditions where anything could happen, especially that which is beyond our limited knowledge of cause and effect.
I want to suggest that such work, attention and ‘love’ is helpful in imagining socio-environmentalism differently, without destroying relationships and awakening us to the possibility of a world where genuine care and concern can flourish. Such work and practice helps us to develop greater attention, awareness, openness and love. By turning the lens on feeling, learning and empathising, it disrupts the colonial stewardship and mastery idea. Could we instead be lovers of other than human beings? I believe we would do well to ‘normalise’ some of their radical, unorthodox ideas and practices around urban conservation that contribute to the birthing of a new story and narrative and to spread the vibration of love and life.
“Hope and its doleful twin, Hopelessness, might be thought of as the co-muses of the modern eco-narrative. Such is the world we’ve created—a world of wounds—that loss is, almost invariably, the nature writer’s subject. The question is how we relate to that loss. Is the glass ninety-five per cent empty or is it five per cent full?” This is the question Rebecca Solnit asks in her recent New Yorker article. And, it’s an important one. What role will hope play in our future? Admittedly, a limited one if it’s not accompanied by ACTION. What actions will we take in the future? Perhaps looking a which approaches to the environmental issues have been most successful in the past can serve as a useful guide. Take a look at some of the sections on the syllabus and see what an assessment of them yields.